Vauxhall Astra

Ultimate 1.6i

Vauxhall Astra Ultimate, side action
Vauxhall Astra Ultimate, front action
Vauxhall Astra Ultimate, front static
Vauxhall Astra Ultimate, rear action
Vauxhall Astra Ultimate, dashboard
Vauxhall Astra Ultimate, boot 2
Vauxhall Astra Ultimate, rear seats
Vauxhall Astra Ultimate, front seats
Vauxhall Astra Ultimate, boot 1

VAUXHALL has piled on the goodies to produce the new poshest version of its Astra - but there's room to spend a bit more if want the ultimate Ultimate.

This latest bells-and-whistles version of the UK-built hatchback can also be ordered with a petrol engine that promotes it into the ranks of cars that should turn entertaining when you put your foot down.

Unite the Ultimate trim level with the 200 horsepower engine and you'll also have a car that costs more than £27,000 and which then has to measure itself against rivals wearing much more upmarket badges.

Rein back on the horses a little and there's the least expensive Ultimate Astra, with 1.4-litre 150bhp engine at £25,530 or pay a bit more and take the diesel Ultimate, with the same 150bhp but better economy and a £28,030 price tag.

So, none of them is in bargain basement territory, especially when you can step on the Astra ladder for a much more modest £18,350. For that you'll get a perfectly serviceable car whose 1.0-litre petrol engine will provide enough performance for lots of users.

What it won't have, of course, is the standard of trim and fittings that come with an Ultimate Astra.

And it really does lack for little, piling on things like big 18in alloy wheels, LED headlights, rear view camera, side blind spot alert and automatic city emergency braking over the former highest spec Astra, the Elite Nav.

The spec fest continues with satellite navigation, leather seat trim (heated in the front and outer rears), heated steering wheel, electric lumbar support for the driver, dual zone climate control, even traffic sign recognition that signals the speed limit to the instrument panel.

So, you won't go short of things to play with in the Ultimate. If you think you might, Vauxhall will happily supply still more spec at ordering time. There's a powered sunroof for £550 and metallic paint at £655, for instance.

All of which means expectations are high as you push the starter button and hear that powerful engine growl into life. This had better be pretty good, you think, to make the bottom line look realistic.

First impressions are promising. There's a feel of solid, sensible German engineering about the cabin, with everything a driver needs well placed and easy to view.

There isn't, however, much sense of occasion to make you think this is a rather smart place to enjoy the upcoming journey, with layers of black plastic dominating the scene.

On the move you'll discover a car that feels thoroughly grown up, riding our awful road surfaces with mature ease but lacking the final flourish of anything approaching enthusiasm for a keener driver.

It's actually a rather quick machine when provoked - decently economical too with 41.3mpg over 500 miles of testing - but you wish it wanted you to enjoy yourself a bit more.

FAST FACTS

Vauxhall Astra Ultimate 1.6i

Price: £27,235

Mechanical: 197bhp, 1,598cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 146mph

0-62mph: 6.6 seconds

Combined MPG: 45.6

Insurance Group: 24

C02 emissions: 142 g/km

Bik rating: 29%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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